Over the last four decades, Rohingya refugees have been fleeing in successive waves to Bangladesh from Rakhine State, Myanmar. Periodic outbreaks of violence led to large exoduses of refugees in particular in 1978, between 1991 and 1992, and in other short waves prior to August 2017.1 Since August 2017, an estimated 745,000 Rohingya refugeeshave fled to Cox’s Bazar District, Bangladesh, where approximately 860,000 refugees are now residing in 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas.2 With limited access to regular income and livelihoods opportunities in the camps, the Rohingya refugee population is highly reliant on humanitarian assistance.3 While the crisis is now in its fourth year, a return of refugees to Myanmar in the near or medium term continues to be unlikely.4 At the same time, structural factors continue to challenge the response, including a lack of formal education in camps, insufficient health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) provisions, and weak shelter infrastructure.5 The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated containment measures put in place in camps on 24 March 2020 further severely restricted humanitarian access and service delivery to the highly aid-dependent refugee communities throughout much of 2020. With only a limited number of essential services having been provided,6 pre-existing levels of need are likely to have been exacerbated. As such, sustained assistance and effective prioritisation for 2021 will be essential to be able to meet likely high levels of need.
As the response has moved beyond the initial emergency phase, there is a continued need for up-to-date information on the needs and vulnerabilities of the refugee population, in order to inform the design and implementation of effective inter-sectoral programming. At the same time, an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and associated containment measures on household-level multi-sectoral needs, capacities and access to services will be essential for a full understanding of priority needs for 2021. Against this background, a Joint Multi-Sector Needs Assessment (J-MSNA) was conducted across Rohingya refugee populations to inform evidence-based strategic planning of humanitarian response activities by the Strategic Executive Group (SEG), the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG) Secretariat, sectors, and sector partners. The J-MSNA further aimed to provide an analytical basis for the development of the 2021 Joint Response Plan (JRP). It built on previous MSNAs, in particular the 2019 J-MSNA with the goal to facilitate an understanding of the evolution of needs and service gaps across time, and was implemented through the ISCG’s MSNA Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Information Management and Assessment Working Group (IMAWG), which is led by the ISCG and comprised of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration Needs and Population Monitoring (IOM NPM), ACAPS, and REACH. Translators without Borders (TWB) provided additional technical support. Sectors were actively involved in research design, preparations for data collection, and the discussion of results and analyses.
The J-MSNA targeted all Rohingya refugee households residing in the 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf Upazilas.
Sectors covered included Food Security, WASH, Shelter and Non-food items (NFIs), Site Management and Site Development (SMSD), Protection, including the Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Sub-Sectors, Health,
Education, Nutrition, and Communication with Communities (CwC). Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected. For the quantitative component, households were sampled from the UNHCR refugee registration database, using a stratified probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) random sampling approach, with stratification at the upazila level and a PPS sampling approach at the camp level and by gender of respondent. Results are representative of the population included in the sampling frame, i.e. households registered with phone numbers in the UNHCR refugee registration database and in areas with mobile reception, at the upazila level at a 95% confidence level and with a 5% margin of error. A total of 836 interviews were carried out between 27 July and 12 August 2020. Basic descriptive analysis was conducted, complemented by testing for statistically significant differences in outcomes between households of different socio-economic characteristics, and a comparison of 2019 and 2020 results, where possible.
Qualitative key informant interviews (KIIs) were used to supplement quantitative data collection, contextualise and validate findings, and draw qualitative links between sectoral outcomes. A total of 40 KIIs were conducted with members of youth, women, and elderly committees, imams, block and deputy block leaders between 20 and 27 August 2020.
Both quantitative and qualitative data collection was conducted remotely over the phone. This limited the type and quantity of information that could be collected and therefore the depth of analysis, and put constraints on the populations that could be included in the sampling frame. While the KIIs and a secondary data review as well as the sampling approach allowed to mitigate the impact of those constraints, results should be interpreted cognisant of possible gaps and biases, for instance resulting from the exclusion of sensitive topics from the household survey, phone ownership being slightly biased towards men and better educated households, as well as mobile reception being unequal across camps. Lastly, while current levels of need have to be explained within the context of the COVID-19 outbreak and associated containment measures, it was beyond the scope of this assessment to analyse expected levels of need if the containment measures had not been put into place. The findings are therefore intended as an overview of existing levels of need and not as an evaluation of the lockdown or COVID-19 containment measures.